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A tale of two young fathers holding onto faith while fearing the worst comment (0)

June 17, 2010

By Jennifer Davis Rash

Father's Day is June 20.

In less than two weeks’ time in 2009, two student ministers in different states began an eerily similar journey that makes this Father’s Day extra special for them.

You see both of them still have their youngest daughters, something neither takes for granted.

First, there’s Stephen Hall, minister to students for NorthPark Baptist Church, Trussville.

His 11-month-old daughter, Sadie, has multifocal lymphangioendotheliomatosis with thrombocytopenia. This rare disease leaves her with skin lesions that are also on her gastrointestinal tract. These lesions cause bleeding and dangerously low blood levels. She is currently rotating between various procedures, blood transfusions and several medications.

Then there’s David Mitchell, minister to students for First Baptist Church, Rock Hill, S.C. His 3-year-old daughter, Belle, had a rare tumor called choroid plexus carcinoma removed from her head. It had metastasized to her spine before the first tumor was found. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy.

Both prognoses are uncertain.

Hall’s journey began just after Sadie was born July 12. Mitchell’s started in late July after Belle had surgery for a broken finger and her tremors were noticed.

Hall and his wife, Kelly, made their first www.CaringBridge.org (a free website to connect family and friends during a serious health event) blog entry Sept. 23. Mitchell and his wife, Kelley, made their first entry Sept. 29. Did you notice Hall’s and Mitchell’s wives’ names?

The Halls have three children. The Mitchells have four.

Sadie’s full name is Sadie Annabelle, and she is sometimes called Sadie Belle. Belle’s full name is Susanna Belle.

Both Hall and Mitchell have strong support from their respective church families. Both work with middle and high school students and have divinity degrees from Southern Baptist seminaries.

And while the two have never met, they know about each other’s story and agreed to share their thoughts on this year’s Father’s Day.

From Stephen Hall ...
Father’s Day is coming soon. More than anything else, I am thankful that God has allowed me to be a dad to my three kids. He has given me the strength to stay faithful during the toughest year of my life. As a father, I would love to take on myself the pain my children feel. However, that is not possible in this case. I am grateful to God for allowing Sadie to live. I have learned to cherish the good moments God gives. I have also learned to be a father in the tough moments. In a phone call with a church member during one of the dark hours of this past year, he commented that my strong faith inspired him. I remembered thanking him while not understanding how in the world he saw my wreck of a life to be a strong faith. In the midst of the storm, I was doing the only thing I could do. I was putting one foot in front of the other and continuing on the path to which God called me. I had no option other than to trust God’s guidance and rely on Him. Throughout the year, a lyric from a song written from a good friend has resonated through my mind: “Though my heart and flesh may fail, Your Truth abideth still. Great is Your faithfulness to me.” Before this year, I taught of God’s abiding presence found in Jesus. As a father of a child struggling with a disease, I have experienced the abiding presence of God. His presence provides strength, joy and peace. Although I still have no ability to comprehend the greatest love act of all — God’s turning away as His Son faced the wrath for my sin — Sadie, along with her struggles, has drawn this father closer to the Father than I could ever have been.

From David Mitchell ...
Father’s Day has always been one of those forced holidays that meant very little except the occasional crayon-drawn card that is somewhere between a drawing of an elephant and a picture of daddy. Just one of those days where mommy is forced to feel guilty enough for her flowers at Mother’s Day to do some small token for the father. If I am to be completely honest, it never really meant much to me.

But all of a sudden, you hear the words “baby” and “cancer” in the same sentence and your perspective changes. What you previously viewed as a sad attempt to make dads feel important takes on a whole new meaning.

Father’s Day is not a day for others to lift you up and pat you on the back, but it is a day to be reminded how precious a gift you were given as a man when God allowed you the title of “daddy.”

Isn’t it funny how we view the world through the eyes of a narcissist and make self the center of the universe? I now know that I need to cherish every moment I can with my precious children, knowing that tomorrow is not promised nor guaranteed.

I love my babies and it is time for me to see how many smiles and laughs I can create with my children while I have them with me.

Thanks for a day like Father’s Day to remind me that I am blessed beyond measure to have an opportunity to show the love of God to some small versions of myself.

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